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Zimbabwe: A People's revolution beckons

03 Jul 2016 at 22:09hrs | Views

"We have been conditioned to think that only Politicians can solve our problems, but at some point, maybe we will wake up and recognise that it was the politicians who created our problems" - Ben Carson

The recent protests in the border town of Beitbridge, Zimbabwe marks a fundamental turning point in the Zimbabwean body politic. A turning point by way the people responded to government policy foisted down their throats.  Statutory instrument 64 of 2016, an ill-conceived statutory provision attempting to control the importation of basic commodities, not available in Zimbabwe saw an embarrassing climb-down by the Zimbabwe government. When a government elected however controversially goes for so long feeding half-baked policies to a citizenry already weary from years of mis-governance, there is bound to be a reaction at some point. In the words of Frantz Fanon "We revolt simply because for many reasons, we can no longer breathe". Given- Zimbabweans have not always reacted this way to their government's waywardness.  We have been known to be a gentle people, a malleable people – a people that are kicked in the teeth by its government from time to time without response. A people with a high threshold for pain and suffering.

From fear to Speaking out
Fear: our major undoing over the years- a factor that has not gone unnoticed to our fellow African brothers and sisters. And indeed many have asked, "why do you Zimbabweans tolerate such nonsense from Mugabe" – well, it is not a secret that as a people we had been conditioned to fear Mugabe and his dreaded CIO. The CIO, (abbreviation for the Central Intelligence Organisation), a military style intelligence unit that has over the years been associated with orchestrated motor vehicle accidents for those who disagreed with the establishment. Known for abductions and enforced disappearances. So, whenever a group of Zimbabweans meet in their numbers and the politics of their country becomes a subject- fear was instantly noticeable. This scenario was common everywhere Zimbabweans meet Diaspora and all.  The fear factor has kept us psychological captives for so long. Government workers (civil servants) go for months without pay, no reaction. You deposit your money in the local banks, a process that is almost instant, but you queue for days if not weeks to withdraw a fraction of it. A patient and resilient people we have been: Surviving against all odds: a humorous people, we laughed at our problems and prayed for a better tomorrow.

A changing Political Culture
It is truism that you can push a loyal person to a point that they become disloyal and turn against you. Not too long ago Zimbabweans relied on political parties to offer leadership and instruction on how to deal with the ills of the nation. We have had many political parties come and go. Some have been effective and have caused the government to re-think some of its policies. Some have been fly by night political parties; they have come and gone as quickly as they came. In all these political parties, there has been one constant. The tendency to re-cycle the same leaders who previously held positions of authority in political parties they have broken away from or left.

 A cursory examination of all the political parties in opposition today in Zimbabwe reveals and confirms this sad development. Mobility in the context of politics has been hampered by this political culture bottlenecking the top. Consequentially, incrementally, Zimbabweans have come to develop and trust more in themselves in determining their political future. Campaigners like Pastor Evans Mawarire with their flagship #ThisFlag have gone a long way in raising awareness amongst Zimbabweans, friends of Zimbabwe, regarding the extent of the rot and mis-governance in Zimbabwe. And indeed he has led the way in changing the political culture from fear to speaking out.  The people of Zimbabwe now realise and accept that they do not have to be subservient to a political party or its leader to impact or change the status quo. The political culture that existed before, that saw political parties as the only vehicles of political expression has gone. It is the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Parallels can be drawn between the Arabs springs with what is afoot in Zimbabwe. The citizens of Zimbabwe are readying itself to confront a government that has failed them dismally.  And as in all tournaments exercise and preparation come beforehand.  Localised protests like the one we just witnessed in the border town of Beitbridge is one. Protests in the Unity Square in the capital city Harare are all symptoms of a very sick country.

Government Policy: Too little to late
In the last few months the Government of Zimbabwe passed a series of bills into law, including the controversial Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 introducing controls over the importation of basic commodities. The other contentious law brought online are the provisions under 24:24 of the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act, threatening unspecified action to citizens that are found with more than US 200 dollars on their person and those that do not bank their business proceeds within a specified number of hours. I will dwell more on the former and the later will be a subject for another day. Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 was arguably, if one is to consider the views of business as expressed through the act – to control the importation of specified basic commodities in an attempt to shower up local industry – a very foolish idea. So, Zimbabweans are to buy local, albeit to keep the money circulating within industry in Zimbabwe. Interestingly, there is no functional or consistent supply of basic commodities at reasonable prices. Even when the Zimbabwe economy resembled some degree of normality back in the 90's, the concept of cross border and "Wenera" was nothing new. Zimbabweans have been buying from South Africa, Botswana and other neighbouring countries for decades. The argument that our people are being used by Nigerians and Indians to buy goods in South Africa for their shops in Zimbabwe is neither here nor there. The point is someone is earning a living without the input of government.

Policy Discord, Priorities upside down

It is not a secret that the government of Zimbabwe is broke. It is not a secret either that government expenditure on things that do not improve the livelihoods of Zimbabweans is very high. For instance, Government officials, including the president himself spend millions on foreign travel alone. It is not a secret kuti when President Mugabe travels; he does so with a minimum of 100 people, which include officials, security details and others. All this happens against a government that is failing to pay government salaries.  Furthermore, we have a government that is buying expensive foreign assembled vehicles against a possibility of buying locally assembled Willowvale Motor Industries vehicles. All this points at upside priorities and policy discord. Policy discord in the sense that Mike Bhima, Industry and Commerce Minister Support bills that do not focus on industrial rejuvenation. This policy discord is not lost to all our friends and those countries that would help us. No country will make money available to a country that spends and spends and spends on things that do not improve the livelihood of the man in the street. It is therefore not surprising that the Paris club refused to entertain Patrick Chinamasa's begging bowl.  If at all the Zimbabwe government must learn from the recent protests in Beitbridge that it is no longer business as usual. You cannot continue to come up with policies that impoverish citizens with no response. That time is now gone. The Political culture that took Zimbabwe's citizens for granted has now come to an end. In the absence of a fundamental paradigm shift on the part of government, the people's revolution beckons: A revolution that will usher in leaders that will be accountable at the instance of the people. Leaders that can be hired and fired by the people if they fail in their mandate. Handei tione.

The writer Lloyd Msipa is a Zimbabwean Lawyer based in the United Kingdom. He writes in his personal capacity

Source - Lloyd Msipa
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